I was really unsure about traveling to Komodo Dragon Island because the distance is just so far away compared to the other Seven Wonders of Nature. Regardless, it was my last stop in the Asia region and wanted to get it done it. Little did I know I was about to go on an adventure of a lifetime!
How to get to Komodo Dragon Island
Komodo Dragon Island is located in quite a remote place. For you to reach this island, you must first fly into Bali, Indonesia first. Once you reach Bali, your next move is to book a flight to the city of Labuan Bajo.
Indonesia is known for having some of the worst airline safety ratings in the world. Their aircraft is apparently forbidden to fly to Europe because of all the safety measures they breach. Knowing this fact, I was a bit apprehensive to take an Indonesian airline to Labuan Bajo.
There are three main airline carriers that can take you to Labuan Bajo:
- Wings Abadi Airlines
- Nam Air (also known as SRIWIJAYA AIR)
- Garuda Indonesia
Wings Abadi Airlines is the cheapest but it also got the worst ratings of the three. As a matter of fact, many of the reviews I read made me feel a bit uneasy so I decided not to book my flight through them.
Garuda Indonesia seems to be the best option but was also on the pricy side so I skipped this airline.
I ended up booking with Nam Air which got “okay” ratings and the price is not too much more than Wings Abadi Airlines. I paid 606,000 IDR for my flight which is roughly $65 CAD at the time of purchase.
Nam Air was surprisingly decent and we even got a lunch bag containing a piece of bread and a bottle of water. The only bad thing about my flight was the guy beside me was fidgeting and shaking a lot because I think he was scared the plane was going to crash.
From the many reviews I’ve read online, Labuan Bajo is a boring dusty old town who’s main purpose is to be the launching pad for Komodo Dragon Island tours. To my surprise, this review is completely false. Perhaps back in the days, it was this dusty boring town. Nowadays, it’s full of places you can eat yummy food and the number of tourist activities you can join has sky rocketed.
I was surprised at the number of places you can visit in the Labuan Bajo area and even consider returning here again one day. (Not to mention all the delicious fish you can eat in this city)
The city is also undergoing massive amounts of development. In a few years, I won’t be surprised if many luxury hotels and resorts begin to cover the area.
This is good news for me because the hostel I stayed in is brand new! As a matter of fact, it’s not finished constructing yet but they decided to do a soft opening. Because the hostel was brand new, so were the beds and I had some of the most comfortable sleep I’ve had in a hostel situation. I was truly impressed.
The cost of the hostel was also affordable at 100,000 IDR per night (roughly $10.50 CAD). Not only was the price good but it also came with a delicious breakfast and an excellent luggage storage locker. The only bad thing about the hostel is the showers have no hot water. Not that it matters, Indonesia is a very hot and humid country so hot water is not really necessary.
Booking the one day Komodo Dragon Tour
Once you’re all settled in your accommodation in Labuan Bajo, it’s time to book your tour! Some people do a 3 day 2 night tour. But a lot also just want to see the main attraction which is the Komodo Dragon Island. I am one of those people that is happy to book just the one day tour.
Booking this tour is tricky, there are tons of shops offering to sell you the exact same tour. The one day tour itinerary is mostly same for all the companies. They will take you to the following place:
- Padar Island Hike
- Komodo Dragon Island
- Pink Beach
- Manta Point
After shopping around, we ended booking our tour with the company right in front of the hostel (Bajo Nature Backpackers) I was staying at.
The price the tour company will offer you will range from 400,000-500,000 IDR. They will often quote you a higher price and your job is to bargain lower. I found that no company will go lower than 400,000 IDR (about $43 CAD) and actually, when I tried mentioning this price to other companies, they got upset that another tour operator was offering it for that amount.
This fee includes visiting the four places mentioned above as well as bottled water and lunch. I advise you to bring extra snacks because the tour is long and you will be hungry for sure.
The tour doesn’t include the park fee of 330,000 IDR (about $36 CAD) that you pay once you reach Komodo Dragon Island. I personally think we got ripped off by the park rangers and they added extra to this fee but that’s the amount we paid.
Start of the Komodo Dragon Island tour
The tour starts at around 3:30am when the operator starts picking up everyone from their respective accommodations. Our boat only had three people in it and I think it’s cause one guy in our tour paid for a private guide costing him roughly 1,500,000 IDR. In total, it was me, the guy with the private guide and a Canadian girl (Karly) I befriended in the airport that is also staying in the same hostel as me.
When I say the tour company was picking us up, I meant they will take a walk with us to the docks. Once our boat is loaded up with food, we got aquatinted the other staff members of the tour group then off we go!
First stop: Padar Island
After a long boat ride taking roughly 2-3 hours, we are ready to start hiking! Our first stop is Padar Island which is as picturesque as it gets. It literally looks like an island you would see in a magazine except it was real and we were on it!
The hike itself looks amazing but don’t be fooled. Make sure you have plenty of sunscreen and wear sunglasses and a hat. It’s very easy to get a heat stroke here from the intense heat of the sun. I was actually feeling light headed as I ascended up the island mountain and many others felt the same way.
Regardless, I had a blast taking pictures and videos on this island. This is definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen on our planet.
Second stop: Komodo Dragon Island
Finally, we reach the main event of the tour. One of the Seven Wonders of Nature and a UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Komodo Dragon Island famous for the biggest lizards in the world.
After most likely getting ripped off on the park fees, we begin our trek in this island. They will ask you if you want to do the short trek, the medium trek or the long or adventure level trek. We opted for the medium level hike and off we go into the jungle.
We definitely got lucky because we saw two Komodo Dragons right away. After snapping some pictures, we went deeper into the jungle.
Trekking through the Komodo Dragon island felt like I was in the movie Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was so cool how we were traversing through thick jungle vegetation in search for more Komodo Dragons.
After hiking for a bit, we came across one that was walking all over the jungle trail. We followed it for awhile until it decided to go inside deeper in the jungle where we couldn’t follow him (or her).
We then got out of the jungle and headed for the beaches and cabins where we saw three more Komodo Dragons. One was unfortunately sick but we saw a huge one just lounging around near a cabin.
After taking lots of awesome pictures, we started heading back to the boat. (Apparently, Karly saw another one when she tried going to one of the gift shops)
We saw a total of six Komodo Dragons making us quite lucky indeed because sometimes, tourist don’t even see one!
After exploring the Komodo Dragon Island, we had a lunch on the boat as we sailed to our next destination.
Third stop: Pink Beach
Pink beach is our next stop. And yes, the beach is really pink. As a matter of fact, many tourist takes some of the sands to bring home (they shouldn’t but no one stops them).
This is also a popular place for snorkeling and were equipped with feet paddles and snorkeling gears.
I was a bit afraid to go snorkeling because I’m not a confident swimming despite knowing how to swim. Karly and other backpackers simply jumped in the water but I took a small boat to the shore along with the other dude in our tour and started snorkeling from there instead.
That’s when it happened…Sudden downpour! At any given time, it can rain hard in these areas. I quickly ran for shelter in the boat and so did the other guy in our tour group. The small boat took us back to the main boat where we waited out this huge rainstorm.
Once it cleared, our boat started heading for the next and final destination.
Fourth and final stop: Manta Point
As the name says, Manta Point is the location that is full of manta rays. In order to see them, we would have to jump in the sea to see them.
I was exhausted at this point and just watched the manta rays from the boat. Karly, one of the staff members on the boat and other backpackers on nearby boats began jumping in the sea despite the fact it started raining again. They’re definitely brave and gutsy for doing that.
After observing the manta rays and a day full of adventure, it was time to head back to Labuan Bajo!
The “scary” boat ride back to Labuan Bajo
At this point, the waves was quite intense. Our boat was being tossed around quite a bit. The other guy in our tour was so frightened, he had his eyes closed during the entire boat ride back. I also witnessed other boats who probably did the overnight tour being thrown around.
Honestly, I was more scared for the other boats than us. The other boat was higher in height and it looks like it can topple over at anytime from the force of the waves. It was definitely an unnerving boat ride back.
I can tell the staff members who was navigating the boat was stressed out because they didn’t stop chain smoking during the entire ride back. The amount of second hand smoke I inhaled was horrible but at least they got us back safely to shore.
Doing the Komodo Dragon Island tour is one hell of an adventure and I highly recommend it to everyone! Just keep in mind that Indonesia has a lot of corruption so make sure to bargain hard when you are in this country.
Make sure if you do the several day tour, that you end up on a good boat. One boat I saw looked like it was about to topple over in the water during rough waves and seeing that is a bit unnerving. You’re going to this place to have fun, not to fear for your life so do check the condition of the boat (if you can) before paying for it.
Labuan Bajo is also a nice town with tons of delicious food, you’ll definitely have fun exploring this town before or after your trip to see the world famous Komodo Dragons.
One day, I will return to this island and explore it more thoroughly. If you are a diver, then this is also the perfect spot to do get some diving done. I don’t have my diving certification but I most definitely will get it before I return here again in the future.
The Komodo Dragon Island tour is my last stop before going to South America and it was the perfect farewell to Asia and Oceania before the next segment of my journey begins. I’m sure you’ll love this place, too!